20 YEARS OF KART EVOLUTION
How have karts changed over the last 20 years? Technical and photographic analysis of the revolutions in terms of materials, accessories and construction philosophies
The evolution of chassis from yesteryear to the present day
Karts from yesteryear, if fitted with the latest tyres and put out on a track today, would probably be unable to produce performances comparable to more modern chassis. We’re not referring to the very first generation of chassis made using thin tubes, solid axles, equipped with low performance engines and very hard tyres, but to 20 year old chassis, which in many ways were already high performance, with geometries that were visually similar to those of today. If not on the shape, then, where has work been done to improve performance? Which aspects have been primarily responsible for exerting a positive influence on performance? Before going into detail, there is no doubt that, generally speaking, karts from 20 years ago used axles with a diameter of 40 mm; they did not always provide the option of mounting front stiffening bars and, when these were used, they were often welded to the frame and therefore fixed. Obviously, braking systems were also not as evolved as modern day ones.
The first chassis chosen for this historical excursus is the Birel CR832, winner of the Formula C world championship in 1997 (in the drawing, taken from the book on Birel called 40 years of kart history and technology). A unique characteristic of the chassis was the mobile bar that joined the longerons between the cradle and the stub axle attachment, at the front end
Visually, the impact is more modern, thanks undoubtedly to the departure from square fairings in favour of softer shapes, designed to improve aerodynamics. The brake caliper is no longer welded to the chassis, but attached to the bearing holder. The kart is equipped with eccentric bushings in order to adjust camber and caster.
CRG Black Star
This model still in production today, the design of the frame is traditional and used a combination of 30 cm and 32 cm diameter tubes. The big difference compared to today lies in the evolution of materials over the last 10 years and the production technology used for accessories.
Tyres are undoubtedly one of the components that has changed the most: in the past, there were no restrictions on the “ingredients” that could be used to manufacture them, especially when it came to oils. Compounds were softer, with high levels of grip and, in general, better performance, especially in international competitions. This allowed a rougher driving style, right up to allowing the rear end to drift on the faster bends to exploit the high grip and allow the kart to stay on the track. Indeed, the danger of excessively soft tyres, on certain tracks and in high temperatures, would be to literally glue the tread to the tarmac. Nowadays, having to use natural oils, a decision linked to respecting the environmental, has led to a reduction in grip. In addition, the CIK-FIA’s policy of limiting costs by setting a maximum sale price has restricted the room for manoeuver of manufacturers.
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